Mayor Ted Wheeler's office has a new game plan for handling disruptive meeting attendees—it's just not saying what it is.
"Those who attempt to disrupt city council meetings will be asked to leave," Wheeler's chief spokesperson, Michael Cox, said earlier today. "Those who refuse to leave will be subject to arrest."
That's boilerplate language at council meetings, though. Wheeler's said those very sentences—or, anyway, something very close—repeatedly as City Council hearings have spiraled out of control over the last few months. But Wheeler's office, not wanting to appear as if it is issuing a challenge to demonstrators, wouldn't offer specifics.
Whatever the plan is, it's got a believer in Commissioner Nick Fish.
Fish, the Mercury first reported, made the decision last week to instruct all his employees and bureaus not to attend city council meetings, after a hearing last Wednesday became particularly testy.
But having sat down with Wheeler and Wheeler's deputy chief of staff earlier today, Fish says he's rescinding the order.
"They went into great detail about the plans they have for maintaining decorum and order at council meetings, starting tomorrow," Fish tells the Mercury. "I’m now satisfied that we will in fact be restoring order in our council meetings. I will be allowing people to come and testify tomorrow."
Fish also wouldn't offer specifics about the planned security policy, other than to say "it's fair to say the mayor intends to use all the tools available to him, and his patience has run out."
So we'll see—maybe. A council meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning was cancelled, due to the planned absence of a majority of council. Comissioners Amanda Fritz, Dan Saltzman, and Chloe Eudaly will be gone.
There will be a meeting held at 2 pm instead.
Despite repeatedly threatening to eject or arrest people who disrupt council meetings, Wheeler has largely allowed outbursts to continue. That was especially apparent last Wednesday, when a meeting over a largely symbolic resolution over whether Portland should be declared a sanctuary city devolved into bedlam. Part of the anger, it appeared, was due to recent news that an officer who killed a 17-year-old last month would not face criminal charges.
Wheeler's also faced outcry for a new law, passed unanimously by Portland City Council, that might allow the mayor to exclude people from council meetings for up to two months. That policy goes into effect next month, but Wheeler has acknowledged the exclusion portion of it might not be constitutional. He'll wait on a federal judge's permission before any exclusions take place.